How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

The summer season is in full swing with record heat across the country, and with many houses having some type of air conditioner, it’s the ideal way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, appreciating that your air conditioner runs well, let’s gain some insight at how a normal cooling system functions.

The Basics

Your air conditioner works the just like your refrigerator, but obviously compared to keeping a small space cool, it has to cool your entire home. Both use a refrigerant that converts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a consistent loop from the outside to indoors. It goes into the home as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or soaks up heat from your indoor air, expands back into vapor, then back to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is changed back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is created out of four key components: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The component where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be inside, in your attic, or situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is carried across the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is driven within your house.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor stationed in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it turns into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor enters the condenser coil where a lower amount hot air blows by the coil, removing heat to the outdoors, and returns the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is pushed to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is repeated.

Your air conditioner is an endless loop of physics at work. We realize the important thing to you likely isn’t what happens behind the scenes, but that it’s functioning successfully. If you’d like to talk science or just about staying cool, give our technicians a call at 562-286-6624. We will partner with you and the laws of physics to ensure you cool this time around.